It is a sad fact that the significance of Defence Day is lost on a lot of people
September 6, 1965, is a date which all Pakistanis should be intimately familiar with — the fateful day when Indian forces attempted to trespass our territory, leading to the outbreak of war. In commemoration of the staunch defence put forth by the Pakistan armed forces, Defence Day, or rather Yaum-i-Difa, is celebrated every year on this day.
Defence Day celebrations have been a part of my life for as long as I remember. Having some very close family members in the armed forces, I am keenly aware of the struggles and sacrifices that are a part of their lives. As a school child, I would often take part in festivities either at school or in the local community, in memory of the sacrifices and gallantry of those who helped safeguard the sanctity and sovereignty of our nation. The brave men whose actions in the 1965 war are the reason we still hold our independence deserve every modicum of respect that we can give to them, and Defence Day is a way to do just that.
I have clear memories of the theatre plays I would participate in to pay respect to the bravery of our soldiers, as well as attending the various parades and ceremonies which would be held all across Lahore, such as at the Fortress Stadium.
Such ceremonies and parades are organised by the armed forces all over the country. From the change-of-guards ceremony at the Mazar-i-Quaid in Karachi to the 31-gun salute in Islamabad, the celebrations of the day are a spectacular tribute to the memory of the martyrs. Displays of major missiles, tanks and guns take place and the martyrs of the war are honoured in several ways. Many stories are shared in the media detailing the heroics of the soldiers, and the pictures of many martyrs are displayed in cantonment areas.
From the change-of-guards ceremony at the Mazar-i-Quaid in Karachi to the 31-gun salute in Islamabad, the celebrations of the day are a spectacular tribute to the memory of the martyrs.
Also, special prayer meetings for the martyrs are held by local communities. Television shows are aired to spread awareness of the sacrifices of the soldiers.
Yet, for a significant number of people, September 6 is just another day. I have a feeling that the younger generation isn’t quite aware of the significance that this day holds. Despite the gravity of the war as well as the impact it has had on the country, the events that took place as well as the bravery of our soldiers have slowly faded from people’s minds. Those who do remember the events often choose not to celebrate this day for one reason or another. A lot of them view the accounts relayed to the general public regarding the war to be propaganda or a false retelling of history. Many people point out the initial aggression by the Pakistani armed forces in Kashmir to be at odds with the story fed to us; that of an unprovoked attack by our neighbour.
Recent political events have also shifted the way people view the whole story. No wonder, many people aren’t bothered to ‘celebrate’ the day as such.
However, regardless of the origin of the war of 1965, or how the events really played out, it is an undeniable fact that the armed forces prevented a major catastrophe. The young soldiers who held out against the Indian assault are undoubtedly our heroes, for their bravery and sacrifice helped sustain the independence of our country.
It is, therefore, regrettable that Defence Day isn’t held in high regard by the general populace.
The writer is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at NUST, Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]